Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weaving a plaited basket

It is quite unnecessary to describe one basket after another in the weaving art world, for they are so much alike that after one has made a few simple shapes he or she is able to copy anything that they may see, or to invent new designs for themselves.

The Haida word for these simple plaited baskets is k'√°aduu, or small basket made from thick strips of cedar bark. This article will focus on using the cedar bark cut into various widths, but any kind of wide material can be used such as a five strand braid, or other kinds of tree bark, cattails, even wood splints. The method of construction used in these baskets is similar to the spider weaving exercise. Both present the question of whether or not to weave with an even or odd number of warps. If you decide to choose an odd number of warps, your weft can be one long continuous spiral around the basket. If you choose to use an even number of warps, each row of weft lies on top of the other. When finishing the edge of an odd number of warps, care has to be taken to make sure the edge is even and not sloped to one side, which can be remedied with lots of practice.

Plaited baskets are woven with a flat, square or rectangular basket. Both the spider and plaited baskets have warps and weavers. The weavers go over and under the warps, both when plaiting and twining.

Take 4 strips of cedar bark cut to 1/4" width. These strips will be your starting warps. When determining the length of these strips, be sure to include 1 or 2 inches extra length on each side of the basket for pulling and tucking. If you wish to make a 3" basket like the one shown in the picture above, measure your warps 3" for one side + 3" for the base + 3" for the other side + 3" for pull and tuck = 12" or a foot. Start by interweaving the centers of these four strips.

Continuing adding warps, keeping the ends sorta even, the weaving part centered, with the long warps in one direction and the short in the other if you are making a rectangular basket. Weave the warps over and under, making a plain weave pattern. As you weave, keep the warps at right angles, or perpendicular to each other and watch to see that the gaps at the crossovers are square or non-existent.

If you are using a mold, plastic square, or wooden block, to weave around, place it in the center of your weave and check to see if you have enough warps to evenly cover the base of the block. To keep your base together temporarily, use cloths-pins in the corners to keep your warps from moving around. At this point you can decide whether or not to twine the edge of your basket base with a thin weaver. This will be helpful too in keeping the base from shifting as you work with it, and for decorative appeal.

After the base is woven, bend the warps which will become the sides of the basket, using a flat ruler on the edge of the basket base, and bending the warps up at a right angle. If your bark is getting a little dry, dampen it with a water spray or dip it a pail of water and soak a minute.

Since this basket we are making has a even number of warps, you will begin and end a weaver on each row and overlap the ends across 3 or 4 warps. If this basket had an odd number of warps, you could spiral the rows with one long weaver.

Because this basket has an even number of warps, each row is separate from the previous row. When adding new rows, place the overlaps of the ends of the weavers on different sides of the basket. This will keep the basket strong and avoids bulkiness showing up on one side of the basket. End each row with the weavers ends hidden behind a warp. Every couple of rows or so, stop and awl each row down so that it is snug with the previous row, eliminating any gaps.

To finish the edge of your basket, tuck all the rows, and cut the ends of the warps if you like to a point or a slant so that they will be easier to weave back into the basket. If you feel the bark getting a little dry, and cracking, soak the basket for a few minutes upside down to wet the rim and warp ends. Tuck the pointed warps back under the first 2 or 3 rows of weavers into the basket using a awl to help lift the rows. Pull the warp down and through, so the the fold is snug against the top weaver row and cut off any excess below the 2 or 3 row. Pull and tuck down all warps evenly to make a nice rim. Optionally a handle can be added using a braided strand.